Derren Brown (born 27 February 1971) is a British psychological illusionist. He was born Darren Brown in Croydon, Surrey, and attended the University of Bristol, where he made his first public performances, as a traditional stage magician. From the mid-1990s he pursued a career as conjurer, practising the traditional skills of close-up magic. Even after his later change of emphasis, many of his psychological illusions are, in essence these same tricks (well known to magicians), skilfully performed with a Brown's showman's flair adding psychological sheen to aid misdirection.
Since the first broadcast of his Channel 4 television show Derren Brown: Mind Control in 2000 he has become increasingly well known for his "mind-reading" act. Derren Brown makes no claims to possess psychic ability. He claims to achieve his results by making use of deep psychological insight. Using his knowledge and skill he claims that he is able to predict and influence people's thoughts with subtle suggestion, manipulate the decision making process and read the subtle physical signs or body language that indicate what a person is thinking.
On October 5, 2003, Brown performed his most controversial stunt to date, playing Russian roulette live on Channel 4 (though with a slight delay in case the stunt was not successful). Because of the British gun laws banning the possession of handguns, the stunt supposedly had to be performed outside of Britain, at an undisclosed secret location. A volunteer, chosen from 12,000 who applied for the task, and whittled down to 5 by the day of the stunt, loaded a single shot into a revolver with six numbered chambers, then counted from one to six. Attempting to predict the location of the bullet, Brown pulled the trigger on chambers 3 and 4 with the gun aimed at his head, before aiming away on chamber 5 and again pulling the trigger (though the chamber was empty). After a very long pause, he aimed at his head again for chamber 6, before quickly firing the (supposedly) live round in chamber 1 away from him.
The stunt was condemned by senior British police officers, apparently fearful of copycat acts. Several commentators also suggested that the show was a mere hoax. It later transpired that the stunt had occurred in Jersey, where gun laws are not as strict as in Britain. Furthermore, even before the stunt, the police there, who had been in contact with Channel 4, were "absolutely satisfied ... that no-one was in any danger whatsoever". The Jersey police also said "a prop company brought a number of props to the island" and the BBC reported their Detective Chief Officer as stating that "there was no live ammunition involved".
In 2003 and 2004 he toured around theatres in the UK, and his latest Channel 4 series, Derren Brown: Trick of the Mind, started on 23 April 2004. He also presented a special show for Channel 4 on 31 May 2004 called Derren Brown: Sťance in which he brought 12 members of the public together to re-create a sťance.
He has written two books on magic, "Absolute Magic" and "Pure Effect" and a video, The Devil's Picturebook.
Selected highlights from the first series are available on DVD and video entitled Derren Brown - Inside Your Mind.